I am a miracle made up of particles and in this existence I'll stay persistent and I'll make a difference and I will have lived it - Medicine for the People

Up to my ears in electronic health record research!

Friday, March 15, 2013

For those of you who don't know, I work for Partners Healthcare doing research on electronic health record systems (EHRs). Information systems in the medical field is a pretty hot topic right now and I'm lucky that I get to work with some amazing people on such a cutting-edge project.
The study that I'm involved with is focused on medication alerts in EHR systems that physicians use in hospitals or private practices. When a doctor is prescribing a medication for a patient, the EHR will look through the patient information and generate alerts about potential drug interactions or allergies that could cause harm. The physician is then prompted to review their order and can cancel or switch medications if needed. Ideally, this would avoid a lot of nasty cases where patients are prescribed something that they're allergic to or that would interact with a drug they're already taking. In reality, it doesn't work quite as well as that.
Last month I went to an informatics seminar that included the shocking statistic that roughly 10% of hospital deaths are due to adverse drug events. That's literally 1 out of every 10 patients dying because of a drug they were given. Most of these are unavoidable (ex. the patient had never had the drug before so there was no history of allergy or bad reaction) but some of these are a result of a resident or attending making a mistake. The problem is that the systems aren't alerting physicians in an effective manner so most of the alerts are either ignored or never noticed. We're hoping to fix that.
It's a big project to take on and so far it's been exciting and I've learned a lot but it's also keeping me really busy so I haven't had much time to write. Hopefully I'll be able to write a more in-depth post soon about the project but for now, here's a picture of the very official nameplate outside my little cube where I work.

Namplate for Research Assistant at Partner's


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